Students protest in support of affirmative action outside the Supreme Court on October 15, 2013, in Washington.

The Supreme Court may ban affirmative action, but the world that embraces diversity is here to stay

Updated 12:45 PM ET, Sun February 27, 2022

(CNN)A Supreme Court justice is appointed for life, is virtually impossible to impeach and has the "unbridled" ability to nullify any law through the power of judicial review.

It's that power that affirmative action supporters dread now that the high court has decided to consider the use of race in college admissions. They fear the conservative majority on the court will undo more than 50 years of racial progress in higher education, and the ripple effects could cause American institutions to backtrack on efforts to become more diverse.
But there is another perspective that says that the legal power of the Supreme Court cannot withstand an even more formidable power:
The will of the American people.
That perspective insists that it ultimately won't matter what conservatives on the Supreme Court decide on affirmative action.
A decision banning the use of race in college admissions could cause minority enrollment in higher education to plummet, but colleges will adapt. And so will the rest of America because concepts such as diversity and inclusion are too widely accepted now to be erased, some scholars and diversity consultants say.
"Society is moving in the direction of diversity and inclusion, and there is no turning back," says Barry Friedman, author of "The Will of the People: How Public Opinion Has Influenced the Supreme Court and Shaped the Meaning of the Constitution."
"The ultimate check on the Supreme Court is popular will."

Why critics dislike affirmative action ​

The issue of affirmative action in higher education may turn out to be the ultimate test of Friedman's optimism. After years of conservative legal attacks, it has become the legal equivalent of a dead man walking -- it's operating on borrowed time.